News Releases

UNAIDS and Global Fund welcome presidential pardon of jailed couple in Malawi

25 May 2010

Announcement comes after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with President Bingu Wa Mutharika

GENEVA, 29 May 2010—Calling the pardon “courageous” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on legislators to change the nation's laws on homosexuality. Saying “this outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist.”

“We thank the President of Malawi for his humanitarian actions and the United Nations Secretary-General for his unwavering commitment to end laws that hamper the AIDS response including laws that criminalize consensual adult sexual behavior,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS executive director. “This is a victory for the voiceless and for people on the margins of society.”

The Executive Directors of UNAIDS and the Global Fund met with President Mutharika earlier this week and also expressed their concern over the conviction of the two men in Malawi who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offenses.” They discussed with President Mutharika the health, societal, cultural and human rights ramifications of this case, which has attracted international attention.

“We applaud this decision. It is particularly important that it comes in Malawi, a country so dedicated to the AIDS response,” said Prof Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. “All vulnerable groups need support if we are to overcome this pandemic.”

UNAIDS and the Global Fund consider the criminalization of individuals based on their sexual orientation as a setback for human rights that threatens public health gains in the AIDS response. Criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs.

More than 80 countries have legislation prohibiting same-sex behaviour. UNAIDS urges all governments to ensure full respect for the human rights of men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgendered people through repealing such laws.